The Jakarta Post
Through its long shots and improvisational dialogue, Richard Oh's latest movie, Melancholy is a Movement, unfolds ironies about of the country's twisted film industry through the eyes of directors and actors.
Renowned director Joko Anwar (Modus Anomali, Joni's Promise) takes on the main character.
After facing a loss, a director named Joko start losing his passion for everything. But the bills keep coming, so Joko needs to work.
The project is a religious-themed movie, starring his actor friend Bayu (Ario Bayu), about a man who tries to spark chaos in the peaceful yet boring Heaven. It is a bumpy road as Joko and Bayu have a spat over the latter's acting.
In the beginning, the movie shows several long takes, such as a static shot of Joko vacuuming the carpet in the wee hours.
In another scene, Joko remains quiet while his friends argue or pour their hearts out; such as Amink, who rants about how society can't accept individuals with different personalities, or Bayu displaying his frustration at not getting any call backs from casting agencies.
It is a part of Richard's experiment to shift between mobility and immobility throughout the film.
The 75-minute movie is the result of a 20-page script penned by Richard and the actors' improvisations. The improvisational approach makes the movie more genuine and convincing.
Although Melancholy is a Movement is work of fiction, perhaps some members of the audience can't help but think that the actors unintentionally (or intentionally) slipped their thoughts into the dialogue.
Moreover, the movie features real filmmakers and actors talking about their world ' the film industry.
Lance (Jakarta Undercover) acts as a director who is loyal to Islamic-themed movies and Upi (Radit dan Jani) directs an FTV (television movie) of which the script has not been completed by the time of shooting.
'Just put a camera in front of the actor,' Joko suggested to Upi, in one interesting scene.
'The actor should remain quiet and motionless as the camera rolls. The audience will think something is implied,' he said, 'Something deep.'
Improvisational dialogue, however, is a tough nut to crack for some supporting actors. While Joko, Amink and Bayu offer rich, provoking dialogue, others hardly expand their lines ' resulting to repetitions.
Having appeared as cameos in several movies, Joko does a good job as the main character and may have a future in acting.
Audiences get a chance to hear Joko's voice when he sings a ballad with Morrissey-like nuance as Ario strums the guitar. It is a full-song performance that feels too long and slightly unenjoyable.
In the film, Richard plays with layers of reality ' Joko as a person and a character in a movie.
Wrapping up the movie is a brief and simple scene that bangs out loud ' an almost perfect ending.
Despite the characters bearing real names and professions, Richard underlines that the movie is a work of fiction.
'Regardless of what you may know about Joko Anwar, he is still a fictional character in this movie. Thus, the matter of how personal [the character is to them] becomes unimportant,' Richard said.
For the cast, in particular Joko, acting in the movie prompted them to reflect on themselves and the film industry.
'The film is seemingly simple, but it prompts us to reflect about ourselves as characters, who are, in fact, not ourselves, and also about the film industry that we deal with every day,' Joko said.
Two weeks after its April 2 release, Richard's Twitter account is full of retweets by people applauding the movie, and with many of them noting that the theater screening of the film attracted few moviegoers.
The old story may replay all over again for Richard ' a bibliophile, writer and founder of the Khatulistiwa Literary Award (now Kusala Sastra Khatulistiwa). In 2006, his directorial debut Koper (The Lost Suitcase) had a brief life at local theater chains before being resurrected at international film festivals.
As with his previous movie, Melancholy is a Movement is arguably an art house film that will find a home among film critics and academics.
Although with the issue of a segmented market aside, there is undeniably something special about Melancholy is a Movement.
With its limited budget (a few hundred million rupiah) and partly inexperienced cast, Melancholy is a Movement presents powerful quips and reflects the ironies of the country's chaotic and unpredictable film industry and the melancholy of filmmakers and actors.
' Photos courtesy of Metafor Pictures Production
Melancholy is a Movement
(75 minutes, Metafor Pictures Production)
Producer: Bernice Helena
Director and scriptwriter: Richard Oh
Cast: Joko Anwar, Ario Bayu, Fachri Albar, Renata Kusmanto, Hannah Al Rashid, Amink, Karina Salim, Lance and Upi.
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